By David Howell
WATER VALLEY – The Centers For Medicare and Medicaid (CMS) has placed its highest rating of five stars on Yalobusha General Hospital’s nursing home. The rating places the nursing home in the top 10 percent nationwide and is a first for the facility.
The rating follows an intense survey, conducted back in September, and is based on health inspections, staffing and quality of care at the nursing home. The survey team typically includes a team of three to four nurses and someone from the license division to look at the building, according to hospital administrator Terry Varner.
“They show unexpected, any time from nine to 15 months from the date of the last inspection,” Varner reported.
“This is an indication of what kind of nursing home we are operating,” Varner explained. “Only the top 10 percent of nursing homes in the country receive a five star rating.”
The 122-bed facility had received an overall four star rating in each of the previous two inspections, also a coveted rating that is above average.
Varner explained the survey typically takes about four days and is intense as patients’ medical charts are examined to determine the quality of care.
“They are really diligent, when they get into individual residents, they are looking at their condition to make sure we are treating it according to what the standard of care would be,” Varner explained. “If someone had a skin breakdown during the year, they want to know did we do everything to identify it before it happened and treated it accordingly.”
Varner said deficiencies in the past were more related to paperwork issues, and never a standard of care issue.
“It’s known that nursing home industries are more regulated than nuclear waste,” he added.
The five star quality rating is what pushed the overall rating to five star, Varner continued. The facility received four stars on staffing and health inspections, but the quality rating carries more weight.
“That’s where the nurses have done a really great job, keeping people as healthy as we possibly can,” Varner said.
In addition to the nurses, Varner attributes the superior level of care to several factors, most importantly the care from all 170 employees who work at the nursing home.
“We try to hire hometown people. About 80 percent of our employees live in Yalobusha County,” Varner explained. “The staff is so happy about receiving a five star rating. They are designing t-shirts they want to wear,” Varner explained.
While Varner acknowledges the rating is important, what goes on each day at the nursing home is more important. An essential part of the daily interaction for the residents is the strong county-wide community support.
“I could not start to name everybody in the community who provides support here, there are so many clubs, there is not any part of the county that I can’t call and ask for help for any needs,” Varner explained. “This support helps provide an upbeat environment for our residents,” he added.
The volunteers provide help in many different ways, ranging from landscaping to Sunday church services. Pastors come in daily and churches across the county alternate each Sunday hosting special services in the facility.
Another important person who helps provide quality care for the residents is the nursing home’s medical director, Dr. Paul Odom. Of the 122 residents in the nursing home, over half are patients of Dr. Odom, who is also the hospital’s Chief of Staff.
He checks on his patients every day, taking a break from the medical clinic with a working lunch at the nursing home.
“He eats his lunch every day at the nursing home, while he is working,” Varner said about the long-time physician’s daily routine.
Dr. Odom also credits the entire team working at the facility as the driving force behind the five star rating.
“We have never had this. I have been here a long time and never reached this pinnacle,” Dr. Odom told the Herald.
“We have great people working at the nursing home, the nurses; the aids; Michael Fonte, our nursing home administrator; and our director of nursing, Megan Gordon,” Dr. Odom added. “We have three other doctors, Dr. (Heidi) Pratt, Dr. (Michael) Hall and Dr. Webb, they all are important, we have a good team over there.”
The hard work makes the nursing home one of the few that has a waiting list, according to Dr. Odom.
“People come from Oxford, Grenada, Batesville, Calhoun City – they all want to come to our nursing home because they know they are going to get the best care,” Dr. Odom added.